The prequel and pretension past, along with the run-of-the-mill fodder, we found ourselves– thanks to a reader tip– staring down the barrel of epiloguist Jen Floyd Engel’s perspective-granting long lens in the form of her piece for Fox Sports, “Blaming Saints is height of hypocrisy.” Looking back on the NFL bounty story, Engel seeks to contextualize the thematic strands of that story with those of another and mix in a bit of stern-faced judgment for total effect. Standard-issue English 110.
I can’t specifically recall reading anything of Engel’s before, although I surely have, but the first stumbling point for me came before I even made it to the text. Maybe I still am crotchety after Charles P. Pierce’s bit on this matter, but as someone slightly out of the mold in the nomenclature realm, I have to wonder why Engel goes (presumably) nickname, middle name, last name. If she wants distinction, isn’t Jennifer Floyd Engel the way to do it? For example, Pierce doesn’t use Chuck P. Pierce (although Google suggests he sometimes uses Charlie, but where he does, he drops the middle initial (Google doesn’t know Pierce’s full middle name)). But ok, enough.
After “soak[ing] in all of the moral outrage and denunciations” of NOLA football, Engel shares with us her “first thought”: “Who will play Barry Bonds in this ‘sports tragedy’”?
Huh? Hopefully no one! Why would anyone bring Barry Bonds into this? Watch out sophomore seminar in comparative literature, here comes one now.
This Saints bounty hunting “scandal” has so many similarities with the performance-enhancing drug “scandal” baseball endured that, of course, we are trending toward a day when a single player unfairly becomes a lightning rod for an issue actually endemic to the league.
Ok. I’ll listen…
Here is the script, as provided by baseball: The league tacitly endorses a behavior that makes it a crazy amount of money (steroids, violent hits). Then public sentiment starts to shift because of highly publicized, sad cases of real tragedy. (2) The league quickly moves to isolate and paint revealed offenders as aberrations. That quickly crumbles. More cases emerge.
Hysteria builds, finally crescendoing into calls for change. Only later do we realize what a farce it all was, and so it will be with this hand-wringing over bounties.
Alright… muddy, but I think I’m still with you…
[Gregg] Williams is shaping up to be Jose Canseco in this comedic farce.
And we’re off the rails…
Let’s sell this narrative that what Williams did hurt people and shortened careers while what Ray Lewis unleashed Sunday after Sunday was Hall of Fame-worthy, the lone distinction being when payment was promised and made.
What a farce, indeed.
The Saints were no more violent than anybody else. They simply had a different payment plan.
So can we stop pretending Williams’ crime was fostering a culture in which violent hits are rewarded? That is the NFL. What we hate Williams for is revealing the hypocrisy of pretending anything else to be true.
He outed the league. He outed all of us.
Want the truth? We all have been paying bounties to NFL players for hurting opponents — in page views for our columns, in TV numbers, in jersey sales, in YouTube clicks — long before Williams.
…pushing it hard into the ditch…
What we eventually will learn is the players do not care, or they do care but are willing to assume the risks for a big payday. This is not unlike “Ice Road Truckers.”
Exactly. And now I’m losing sight of you, Barry, and Jose in the ball of flames engulfing this toppled idea train/truck.
Engel doesn’t not have a point– it just doesn’t quite work. Williams is no Canseco. (There’s a left-handed compliment/right-handed insult for you.) Canseco was a fallen prophet, an imperfect messenger, more (some would say) a Ron Paul than a Paul/Saul. Williams didn’t do anything other than get caught. He, like Mr. Roboto, is no brave hero, no would-be savior of a now-tarnished sport. Further, the NFL analogue for steroids in baseball is not hard hits in football. It’s steroids in football. Steroids fueled a rise in baseball popularity (see McGwire and Sosa) and hard hits fueled a rise in football popularity (I guess?), but hard hits are a part of football already, and harder hits might be a factor of steroids (the unnatural intrusion), but they aren’t themselves comparable to steroids. This is why Engel ends still searching for her Barry Bonds– among other unclosed loops– to complete the fractured analogy.
Engel does touch on a good point about football by suggesting that the bounty issue is a distraction from some real problems the sport has. She doesn’t say this directly enough, however (and it isn’t hard to do, as the next post in this series will show), and in her eagerness to spin a transcendent comparative analysis, she loses the path in a cloud of name-dropped celebrity aura and attempted high-mindedness.